More than 300 Louisiana National Guard members are preparing to depart for Kuwait to provide support for the U.S. Army’s ongoing operations there.
Two Guard units — the 922nd Horizontal Engineer Company, in Gonzales, and the 205th Engineer Battalion, from Bogalusa and Hammond — held deployment ceremonies in Thursday. Both will depart this weekend, heading to conduct mobilization training at Fort Bliss, Texas, before deploying overseas.
The yearlong deployment will culminate with the units providing command and control of engineer construction operations in Kuwait, where they will be “doing very tough work,” said Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis, the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard, who addressed the crowds at both ceremonies.
“We continue to be the state that sends the most warriors overseas to fight for global peace,” Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley said at the 922nd’s deployment ceremony, which was held at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.
Meanwhile, in Hammond, a parade of flags and an honor guard of veterans’ groups greeted members of the 205th for the ceremonies held at the University Center on the campus of Southeastern Louisiana University.
The 205th will depart for Texas on Saturday, while the 922nd will leave the National Guard armory on Irma Boulevard in Gonzales at 8 a.m. Sunday.
A new veterans association, meanwhile, is asking residents to assist in seeing the 922nd away. Brent Gautreau, chairman of the Ascension Veterans Associations, a combination of several veterans groups, asked for Gonzales residents to come out Sunday morning to “send these guys off in style.”
The troops will travel from the armory to Cornerview Road, onto La. 44, then La. 30 and eventually Interstate 10.
“We want everyone to bring their American flags to give them a send-off they will remember,” Gautreau said.
The 205th, which marks its 100th anniversary this year, and the 922nd have answered the call to duty in recent years, serving both overseas as well as locally in times of disaster, Curtis said.
“The men and women we are saying goodbye to today are our greatest American citizens because they stand ready to answer the call to duty at all times,” he said.
Curtis said that while the soldiers will place their lives in danger, the “real heroes” are the family members who are left behind.
Spc. Jacob Seidule of the 922nd is leaving behind a wife and three children in Denham Springs. Seidule, 33, said he has worked hurricane duty with the National Guard and also assisted several times in Haiti. However, the Kuwait deployment will be the farthest he’s been from home.
Seidule said it will be tough leaving his children — a 4-year-old son and two daughters under 18 months. He said he would be disappointed to miss his youngest daughter’s first words and first steps, but he understood the choice he was making when he enlisted in the National Guard.
“I see it as a sacrifice,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m sad about it. I’m more upset, but it’s a sacrifice. It’s a life. Not everyone could live it.”
His wife, Heather Seidule, 26, said the family would stay in touch online via Skype, but she knows it won’t be easy to care for three young children while her husband is away.
“It’s a lot more responsibility for me to take on, but we knew that when he signed up,” she said.
Heather Seidule said she would lean on her mother-in-law, who lives near the family in Denham Springs, as well as friends to help support her during the next year.
“We do have a pretty good support system,” she said.
Advocate correspondent Vic Couvillion contributedto this report.